Kaipara oyster farms rejected

By Wayne Thompson

A change of heart by the Auckland Regional Council has dashed the hopes of mussel and oyster farmers wanting to set up operations in the clean waters of the Kaipara Harbour.

Maori residents hoping for jobs are also angry at the council's sudden dropping of a change to its coastal plan which promised to let marine farming into the remote southern part of the country's biggest harbour.

Four years ago the council mooted the change - designed to create aquaculture management areas - as the way to control allocation of space to applicants who sought a total of 400ha.

But before any farms had been set up a number of events had served to change the council's mind, said strategy and planning chairman Paul Walbran.

Last month the Environment Court declined consent for a 30ha mussel farm for a proposed management area off Te Kawau Pt, on South Head, because it would ruin the view for walkers.

The farm had been approved in 2001 by the council against its officers' advice and the South Kaipara Harbour Environment Trust and the Forest and Bird society lodged appeals against it with the court.

Mr Walbran said the council welcomed the court decision as a guide to balancing conflicting uses and values of marine areas.

Withdrawing the plan change recognised the importance that the court attached to the natural and recreational values of the harbour and in its finding that these values would be compromised by aquaculture to such an extent that any benefits were outweighed.

Mr Walbran said the ARC had also declined the resource application for a 104ha oyster farm within a proposed management area off Orongo Pt on the other side of the harbour. It had recommended to Conservation Minister Chris Carter that he decline it as well.

But the Warkworth-based Biomarine company, which wants to set up both the oyster and mussel farms, will fight the decisions in court.

The oyster farm would have given fulltime work to 147 locals and the mussel farm would have supported about five.

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